For members


French Expression of the Day: Œil au beurre noir

We hope that our readers won't have to use this expression any time soon.

French Word of the Day: Œil au beurre noir
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know œil au beurre noir? 

Because this expression has nothing to do with cooking.

What does it mean? 

An œil au beurre noir, pronounced oi oh bur nwah, is a French term for black eye – the injury caused when you punch someone in the face.

The term comes from la sauce au beurre noir which is traditionally used in Breton cuisine. Butter is cooked in a pan until it takes a darker colour, before being mixed with vinegar and sometimes other ingredients like capers. 

The original expression used in the 16th century was œil poché au beurre noir – eye poached in black butter – which was a reference to the fact that eggs were often served with or even cooked in this sauce. The idea is that the white egg floating in a dark sauce looked like an eye surrounded by bruised skin eg a black eye.

Use it like this

Un joueur arrive à l’entraînement avec un œil au beurre noir – A player arrives at training with a black eye

Il lui a donné un coup de poing lui causant un œil au beurre noir – He gave him a punch causing a black eye 

La femme avait les yeux au beurre noir – The woman had two black eyes


A similar expression is œil en compote which literally translates as ‘eye in jam’. 

Alternatively, you can use cocard, cocarde, coquard or coquillard to mean the same thing. 

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For members


French Expression of the Day: La clim’

You'll definitely want to know about this during the summer.

French Expression of the Day: La clim'

Why do I need to know la clim’?

Because the lack of green spaces in cities might find you looking desperately for fresh air.

What does it mean?

La clim’, pronounced la-cleem, means air conditioning, it is a shortened version of la climatisation.

Climatisation comes from the word climatiseur, which itself comes from Klima in Greek and means the inclination of planet Earth from the equator to the poles. This inclination of the planet on its axis is responsible for the seasons and if you find yourself in a French city in August your inclination will definitely be towards climatisation.

Air-conditioning in private homes is not common France, some hotels have it but not all and in the summer months restaurants will often advertise air-con if they have it, as a way of luring in hot-and-bothered tourists.

If you find yourself desperate for cool air, head to a supermarket – almost all French supermarkets are air-conditioned in the summer. Or for a more fun option just head to the nearest city fountain or water feature and join the locals who are splashing around to cool off.

Use it like this

Il fait très chaud, avez-vous la clim’ dans votre hotel ? – It’s really hot, do you have air-con in the hotel?

Je n’aime pas mettre la clim’ en route car cela est mauvais pour la santé et l’environnement – I don’t like turning on the AC, it’s bad for my health and for the environment

Il fait froid, peut-on s’il vous plait éteindre la clim’ ? – It’s cold, could  we turn off the air-con?

La clim’ fait beaucoup de bruit, pouvons-nous la mettre en sourdine ? – This AC is really noisy, could we turn it down?


Un climatiseur – the formal name for an air-conditioner (in French the air conditioning is feminine by the air conditioner is masculine)

Un ventilateur – a ventilator

Un Brumisateur – a ‘fogger’ – these machines which pump out cool water vapour are often seen on the streets and in parks during the summer

Un Rafraichisseur d’air – an air freshener